By Janet Klug
"Summertime and the livin' is easy," penned lyricists Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward in 1933.
Summer is upon us, as the summer solstice on June 21 officially marked the beginning of the season.
In modern America, the beginning of summer means swimming pools, baseball and backyard cookouts.
For ancient peoples, keeping track of the passage of the seasons had both religious and practical significance. The ancient stone circle Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in England is a huge stone calendar that marks the solstices and equinoxes.
The 1992 United Nations-Geneva 1.10-franc Stonehenge stamp (Scott 212) is shown in Figure 1.
Summer's heat and humidity can cause havoc with your stamp collection. If you store your stamps and covers safely, you minimize the damage that summer's dog days can cause.
You are probably uncomfortable when it is hot and sticky. So are your stamps. Moisture-activated gum on mint stamps is especially vulnerable. Stamps exposed to humidity can become stuck to album pages or stock books. Even the gum of stamps in stamp mounts can be affected. High humidity can partially liquefy or crystallize gum in mounts.
Avoid these problems by keeping your stamp collection out of humid basements or unfinished attics. If you live in a dry area, keep stamps away from humidifiers. A humidity of 50 percent and a temperature around 70 degrees is just about perfect for people and stamps.
Store your stamp and cover albums upright, not stacked one on top of another. Give each album a little breathing room. Over-stuffing albums into a bookcase is inviting stamps to become stuck down in the albums.
Keep stamps and covers away from direct sunlight. Stamps left out on a desktop will curl and fade. Put them in albums or archival containers instead, and check to see how they are doing from time to time.
On summer days that are too hot for you to go outdoors, take a hint from the 1964 Wallis and Futuna Islands 9-franc Stamp Collecting stamp (Scott 167) shown in Figure 2 and use that time to thumb through your stamp albums to ascertain the contents are in good condition.
Look for signs of water or insect damage and take corrective measures when necessary.
For me, one of summer's biggest pleasures is lounging in the sun room with a good read. It is a wonderful way to catch up on back issues of Linn's, Scott Stamp Monthly and other philatelic publications and still enjoy the sunshine, flowers and, if you are lucky, the beach.
The British 30-penny Wish You Were Here stamp (Scott 1555) shown in Figure 3 can give you an idea of what I have in mind. The stamp is from the 1994 Pictorial Postcards Centennial issue.
Do you keep clip files of articles that pertain to your collecting interests? If so, this is something you can work on while enjoying your deck or sun room.
Clip files have a nasty habit of getting out of hand very quickly, so organize them by subject using inexpensive file folders. Put them into a file box or cabinet, and the next time you want to look up something about a puzzling item in your collection, you will be able to find the reference.
Be sure to write the origin of the article (publication and date) so you can quote the source if you ever find it necessary to do so.
Summer is a good time to plan new projects. I recently read an intriguing book about events of American history that happened in 1908. As I read, I realized many of the events have been illustrated on stamps, so I began gathering those stamps into a stock book.
Among the stamps were the United States 22¢ Robert E. Peary and Matthew Henson stamp (Scott 2223) shown in Figure 4, the 6¢ Wilbur and Orville Wright and their Plane airmail stamp (C45) shown in Figure 5, and the 32¢ Model T Ford stamp (3182a) shown in Figure 6.
The 1908 events related to the stamps are Peary's exploration of the North Pole, the Wright Brothers' record-breaking test flights, and Henry Ford's development of the Model T.
This is never going to be a world-class collection, but the forming of it made me enjoy the book even more.
Can you be inspired by your summer reading? It might be fun to try to gather stamps that illustrate your favorite novel, poem, movie or even your favorite song. Be creative and have some fun.
One of the great classics of American literature is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. The U.S. 29¢ stamp (Scott 2787) shown in Figure 7 was issued in 1993 to commemorate that novel and its place in American arts and culture.
In 1990, the U.S. Postal Service issued four stamps commemorating four of the great Hollywood films released in 1939, often justifiably touted as the greatest year in movie history.
The 25¢ Gone with the Wind stamp (Scott 2446) from that issue is shown in Figure 8. The stamp design, based on a contemporary movie poster, shows Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O'Hara locked in the embrace of "the King of Hollywood," Clark Gable, playing the rakish Rhett Butler.
The other three films commemorated by the set are The Wizard of Oz, Beau Gesteand Stagecoach.
The problem with summer is that it doesn't last forever for those of us who live in the temperate zones. Plan now, at the beginning of summer, for those days in October and November when the first frost occurs. What stamp collecting projects will keep you busy next winter?
Peruse the advertisements in this issue of Linn's. Order bulk lots or individual stamps that you can look forward to mounting in your albums when the lawn-mowing season has passed and you are not so busy outdoors.
Lay in an adequate supply of mounts or hinges to accommodate your purchases. When the last leaves of autumn fall, you will be ready to enjoy putting stamps into your albums.